"The Kingdom of God is like"....
What is it that makes a good movie or novel?
No doubt we could all identify several key aspects or ingredients that we look for, but there are a couple of things that are probably essential.
The first, I would say, is where the story takes us. When we get to that final scene or chapter, we want to reach a point of genuine satisfaction with the resolution. It no doubt is part of the reason why we will recall the story, perhaps read it again or recommend it to others - we feel it got somewhere. The other, which is equally important, is our journey with one or more of the characters in the tale. We often connect with their thoughts, insights and desires. We recognize and even identify with their growth and perhaps triumph through hardship and we revel in their moments of joy. It's all (to re-work a phrase from a popular movie) ' a pleasant fiction', but the really good stories, of course, are much more - they often reflect and can even teach or confirm to us the realities of life.
This week I've been thinking that the 'story' of Creation may well be just like that.
Becoming thirsty allows us to truly appreciate the value of a cool refreshing drink. The bleakness of winter brings into sharp relief the majesty and joy of the arrival of Spring. Could it be that all the present travail of our present world is actually the pain of purpose - the 'birth pangs' that are necessary for a creation not merely complete in the glory of its physical splendour, but crowned with a life which resonates with the knowledge of the healing goodness and mercy of God?
The Scriptures make it clear that the events which have unfolded since we exiled ourselves from Eden are not a mystery to our Creator. The pain and misery we have brought upon ourselves have been allowed to run their course, but not without purpose. Amidst the very ugliness of such trauma, God has woven a use to death, an engagement with our agony, a point where all that is broken and violated by sin meets with the rich depths of His unmerited mercy and become changed by such. The place is in the broken body, the shed blood, the resplendent forgiveness given in the death of Jesus Christ. This one moment is where all the pain and anguish of our existence in a 'far country' is drawn and salved, that we might taste of a far greater life, made possible by His bruising for our transgressions.
At the end of the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, Red and Andy meet for the first time in many years on the edge of a faraway ocean. They have been deeply changed by their lives, by their experiences and by their knowing of one another, and all of this has brought them to the point where they can now begin a new life - building a boat to explore a new vista.
All of history is moving to a point when the trails will end and such a new day can begin, but it will be a day where all that has been done of value, all that has been learned that holds meaning, will underpin that venture that is to come.